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Sight, sin and sexuality in early modern France

early modern France

This project considers the efforts of French-speaking Reformed or Calvinist churches to reform personal appearance during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It analyses the attitudes of Calvinist clergy towards the body, and considers their perception of the sinful potential of sight. It traces the impact of efforts made by clergy and magistrates to get women to cover their bodies and hair, to limit their use of expensive clothing and jewellery, and to prevent visual access to the body during dances. This campaign met with a good deal of popular resistance, but it was at least partly effective in altering standards of public appearance in Reformed communities. While Reformed authorities aimed to promote the sexual morality of local communities, their moral campaigns also drew attention more intently than ever before to the sexual dangers of visual access to the body. For further information contact Graeme Murdock.